Our inside look at contracts for NFL players and how they’ll impact your fantasy football teams—particularly from a keeper and dynasty league standpoint — continue to roll along.
From gathering intel from these contracts, I’m breaking down situations that might look a little confusing or murky at first, but now will become clearer.
So, with that in mind, we’ll get started on the NFC, starting with the East division.
We all know that QB Dak Prescott will play on the “exclusive” franchise tag at $31.409 million. That much is certain, but next year’s non-exclusive tag will cost the team at least $37.6 million, and even more if they use the “exclusive” tag again. And also keep in mind that the salary cap is expected to drop from this year’s $198.2 million to as low as $175 million.
So, the Cowboys have a tremendous amount of motivation not to let Prescott play on the tag again in 2021. The bottom line is you can expect them to tag him again if they can’t get him signed long-term by early March. If they don’t and he plays on the tag in the second year, a third tag would be 144% of the previous year’s salary, which obviously they don’t want to happen, so look for them to get something done prior to the start of 2021 training camp. Of course, it seems like we’ve been saying the same thing for two years.
At wide receiver, Amari Cooper has a very team-friendly contract structure. In this case, they can walk after two seasons and owe him nothing (no fully guaranteed money after 2021). They would take on $6 million in signing bonus proration dead money, which is palatable. He’ll earn $40 million over those two first seasons, but if he continues to play inconsistent football, they’ll walk after the 2021 season. Drafting CeeDee Lamb in the first round of this year’s draft will play into that decision.
My guess, based on talking to the coaches who were on the Raiders and Cowboys staffs previously, is that Cooper won’t be a Cowboy after the first two seasons of his new deal. He just simply can’t be trusted in big moments.
At tight end, starter Blake Jarwin’s contract might say it’s a four-year deal, but it has a one-year structure. The Cowboys have to make a decision by the fifth day of free agency next year whether to keep him on the roster or not. If he’s on the roster that day, his $3.5 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed. If they decide to cut him before that, he’ll count $3 million against the cap based on signing bonus proration dead money, which is a small price to pay in order to move on from a player. But the team would not owe Jarwin himself a cent in that instance.
New York Giants
The wide receiver position is very interesting for the Giants in the near future.
The Giants are locked in to the contracts of Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard for this season, but the team could very well move on from both of them in 2021.
Tate signed a four-year deal last year, which has a two-year structure. That means the team can cut him after 2020 and owe him very little or nothing. In this case, they would owe Tate nothing if they cut him after this season and avoid paying him his $8.475 million base salary, but would incur $5 million in signing bonus proration dead money. Because of the post-June 1 rule, they could spread that cap hit over two seasons.
As for Shepard, the Giants have until the third day of free agency to make a decision on his contract. If they cut him before that day, they’ll avoid owing him his $6.75 million base salary, or the $4.025 million of it which is guaranteed for injury only, until the third day of the new league year. That $4.025 million becomes fully guaranteed on that day.
As you can see, it’s very possible that the Giants will have two starting receivers next year, which would be good news for Darius Slayton owners.
As for Evan Engram, the team has until the first day of free agency to make a decision on the tight end’s contract. His fifth-year option of $6.013 million is guaranteed for injury now, but becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the new league year. So, if he continues to have injury issues, look for the Giants to walk away from him and his contract. Injury guarantees only kick in if the player can’t pass a physical. It’s extremely rare for this situation to take place.
Count the Eagles as another NFC East club that could have major WR changes in 2021.
Because of the structure of veteran Alshon Jeffery’s contract, the Eagles are locked in with him this season. However, the guaranteed money in his contract will expire after 2020, and based on his extensive injury history and age (turns 31 in February), he’s almost certain to be playing elsewhere in 2021. His salary of $12.75 million pretty much guarantees it.
Also at the position, DeSean Jackson is locked in as well for this season, but the team has the leverage next year, as none of his $8.2 million base salary has any guarantees attached to it. Jackson, who essentially only played in one game last season, turns 34 in December.
With one of those two veterans certain to not be on the Eagles’ roster next season, Jalen Reagor should wind up being their #1 wide receiver in 2021 and beyond.
At tight end, Zach Ertz is signed through 2021 and the team has tried to sign him to an extension. However, Dallas Goedert is eligible to have his contract extended after this season, which makes the decision whether or not to extend Ertz’s deal more challenging.
Washington Football Team
While veteran QB Alex Smith won’t be starting early on after his miraculous recovery from a gruesome leg injury, the team is essentially stuck with him due to his $16 million base salary becoming fully guaranteed on the fifth day of free agency in 2019. He’s signed through 2022, but the guaranteed money in his contract will expire after this season concludes.
At running back, the seemingly ageless Adrian Peterson will see his contract expire after the 2020 season ends. So following the release of Derrius Guice, the team will have to find its future at the position sooner rather than later. Perhaps that is rookie Antonio Gibson.
Veteran RB Peyton Barber signed a two-year deal this off-season, but he received only $600,000 guaranteed at signing, which is payable this season, so the team can get out the deal rather easily after just one season.